April 01, 2007

Good News, No Foolin'

by PG

Via belledame, word that Shaquanda Cotton has been released from a juvenile jail after being incarcerated there for a year -- part of an indeterminate sentence of up to seven years, with release at the discretion of the Texas Youth Commission -- because she shoved a hall monitor. Hall monitors are classed as public servants, assault on a public servant is a felony, County Judge Chuck Superville* thought Cotton's mother was incapable of helping her meeting the terms of probation (the same judge gave a white 14-year-old girl probation for burning down her own house), and so a teenager with no prior record could have been in a Texas Youth Commission facility until she was 21. Enough outrage was funnelled toward TYC officials, particularly through State Rep. Harold Dutton and State Sen. Royce West requesting that her case be reviewed, that she got an early release, though the DA isn't happy about it.

"We are glad she is getting out and are happy for her family, but we have concerns about the way it is happening," Lamar County and District Attorney spokesman Allan Hubbard said Friday.

"We sincerely hope Shaquanda has learned her lesson, and we do not see her in the judicial system again," Hubbard said.
Hubbard voiced his concern about public opinion and the concerns of lawmakers having influence on the justice system.
"A case has been tried in the court of public opinion," Hubbard said.
"We now apparently have a legislature that can insist a state agency release someone from incarceration," Hubbard said. "That is dangerous."
West repudiated Hubbard’s accusation.
"I am sorry that is their impression," West said. "What I did specifically was ask the commission to take a look at the case and make a determination."
Hubbard said he was told Friday by TYC officials that Shaquanda was "not ready to be released."
Although she had reached her [minimum] length of stay -- one year as of March 17 -- Hubbard said TYC officials said she had not made appropriate progress in behavior and correctional therapy.
"They have four levels in each of three categories," Hubbard said. "Youth must reach level four in all of them before they are considered ready for release."
Hubbard said Shaquanda was at level 4 in academics and at level 2 on behavior and level 2 on correctional therapy.
"It has been erroneously reported she received an extension of her time because of having an extra pair of socks in her room," Hubbard said. "That is not true."
"She received no extensions of time, but did not meet TYC release requirements," Hubbard said.

In bad news, however, the TYC has decided to mass-fire all employees with felony records, including those who have not been in trouble since their release. As the above demonstrates, "felony" can be over-inclusive. Even those who unmistakeably were Bad Guys at one time, however, are capable of redeeming themselves and using their experiences to help others. I'm skeptical of how much the average rehabbed former junkie can give a speech that will convince an auditorium of bored teens to Just Say No, but I think someone who can speak to a juvenile offender one-on-one about his own past history and how he turned his life around could be useful.

* Some have said that the mother had refused to agree to those conditions, but the judge himself did not state this. I confess to being a bit prejudiced against him, given the judge's apparent belief that Outside Agitators will cause rioting in the streets.

County Judge Chuck Superville says he fears for the community’s safety and is calling for the national media and other organizations to investigate the facts before drawing conclusions about the Shaquanda Cotton case.
The judge said a March 12 story in The Chicago Tribune unfairly painted the community as racist and a recent protest as well as the threat of future protests by organized groups with national media coverage could "spin this thing out of control."
Superville said he has refrained from commenting until now because of his position as the judge in the Cotton case, but that he believes he has a higher duty as county judge to maintain order in the community.
This reminds me irresistibly of Cartman yelling "RACE WAR!"

April 1, 2007 10:04 PM | TrackBack
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